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Monthly Archives: April 2013

ImageToday would have been my grandmother’s birthday. Hers was the first loss I really felt. The first death that made me feel like someone left a person-shaped hole in my life. I’d lost people before and I’ve lost people after but hers is probably still to this day the only loss I ever truly felt in this sort of “I wish you were here” kind of way – a thought that crosses my mind on multiple occasions, and forever will. Her absence in some really major life moments for me and in particular for my dad, my older sister and my two younger cousins is a real thing we talk about. Like a lot. Even though August this year marks the 10th anniversary of her death.

See, my grandmother had a presence. She was a truly remarkable woman. She made some difficult choices in order to live her life the way she wanted and she was not apologetic about it. In that sense she was the epitome of a feminist –not that she would ever put it in these words herself, but if you knew her full story I think you would agree with my choice of terminology too. She loved her children and defended them like a lioness. Her grandchildren were spoiled rotten and she loved letting us do and eat all the things our parents never wanted us to.

The thing about losing my grandmother is that she was such an opinionated, vibrant and absolutely hilarious person that death just didn’t suit her. I think her absence is felt so strongly partly because she was such a peculiar character. Her ways were so uniquely hers that to this day we very often fantasize about how she would react to specific situations in our lives. I can still hear the delightfully loud sound of her laughter like I heard it yesterday for the last time. They’re a very special set of memories and I don’t think you’re supposed to ever get over this kind of thing. And in my family, we didn’t.

Accepting that my grandmother had died was particularly hard for me. Not because it was easier for anyone else, but because I couldn’t be at her funeral. I got the call and I had nowhere to go and grief or say goodbye or anything. I had just moved back to Holland from Brazil. And in Brazil a funeral usually takes place within twenty-four hours of someone’s passing. So it’s basically: death, sitting around the coffin for an insane amount of hours in the world’s saddest room with crying people coming in and out non-stop, and then the burial. Done.

Death rituals have got to be the most awful things ever. Every single one of these things I ever attended made me a little sadder as a human in general. But I really wanted to go. I wanted to be there going through this awful ritual with everyone else. My conundrum at the time was that there was simply no way I could make it to Brazil in time to partake in any of these mourning activities. I would be spending a small fortune to go home only to miss the whole thing. Not going was a choice – on my parent’s part really because I was 16 at the time – that seemed logical. The last time I had seen her she was healthy as ever and she had gone into the hospital and died in a matter of four days. It was a very difficult set of emotions to process.

In my sociological theory class, years later, I finally heard something that seemed to make sense of my situation. Until that point, that entire semester I had had a hard time connecting with life at university. Each week we were discussing things like functionalism and phenomenology and there was something about this dense and rigid conceptualization of sociology as if it was some kind of ugly tree with different branches that never blossomed or touched that made me question my interest for sociology altogether. I vividly remember being pulled back into the discipline I love through the mention of a theory that rang so very true to my own experience with my grandma’s death. (The power of identification with sociological theory is truly a beautiful thing)

The theory in question was by this micro-sociologist guy whose work was about the importance of rituals and the functions that they fulfill for people – his name escapes me right this second, as he was only mentioned in passing. He figured the function of the funeral was to give the living an occasion to regroup. While culturally people tend to understand the funeral as something for the dead, it in actual fact is the first opportunity for those who are members of the social group(s) to which the dead had belonged to congregate without their presence. In feeling their absence together, they can begin to move forward in their new configuration. And this is when I realized that was the thing I didn’t get. That sort of “okay, we’re all here, she’s not, and that’s just how life is now” moment didn’t come to me until much much later. I went to Brazil a few months after and kept expecting her to pop up in all of the situations where she was supposed to be. My cousins and sister have expressed on many occasions how ‘lucky’ I am for not having been there. But I know better. And I have sociology on my side.

I’ve been thinking about all of this because of my grandma’s birthday which inevitably leads me to think of her death, but also because today a friend of my older sister’s lost his mother, only two weeks after losing his father. Losing a parent is earth-shattering at any age. Losing two in the space of a month is one of those truly brutal situations we hope to never go through. It actually got me thinking about how I have always been much more impacted by the idea of loss than by the idea of death. As a truly social being, I think that’s quite expected. I fear losing the people I love more than I fear not existing. Fair enough, it’s not like I’ll be around to deal with my own death or anything. Yet there’s something quite twisted in our individualistic society that has made other people’s deaths about us in another way. I’ve heard this many times and maybe you have too. The idea is that, supposedly, we feel saddened by someone else’s death because it means that if they can die, we can die. And maybe I just haven’t evolved into as much of an individualist but I deeply, deeply disagree.

As social beings that make up complex networks of affection and weak and strong ties and all sorts of intricate connections, the core people in our lives who we truly have a bond with have an irreplaceable quality. And maybe you don’t get to understand the weight of loss like that until you go through it, but hearing of someone else’s loss always causes me to panic a little. The way I see it, other people’s mortality is horrible because it simply is.

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ImageWhen I was 18 years old I took what I would call a ‘gap year’. My mother might call it the year I wasted between high school and university. Opinions about whether this experience was in fact valid differ in my family but I’m generally very happy it happened. Fresh out of high school and eager to leave my mother’s house for life in the city, I found myself looking for work. At the time, I was tipped off about my employability in corporate Amsterdam due to my fluency in multiple languages and international background. (Ah, the utopian transnational sphere… How I have always gravitated towards thee.)

There I was, 18 years old and terrified. I had virtually no experience and hadn’t exactly gotten the memo about a high school diploma being sufficient for any type of job from which you could live. In fact, I would say my parents managed to keep this little gem of secret from me for quite a while. Not pursuing higher education was never really an option at my house. Not pursuing it fresh out to high school was already severely frowned upon, but the ‘not at all’ option was simply not there.

In Amsterdam I quickly began to meet several people who opted to skip ‘University Avenue’ and go down ‘Entry-level Job Road’ as a survival strategy. And what’s more (to my utter surprise) they were all pretty fucking fine. They had steady jobs and disposable incomes and were buying property all over the place. So the capitalist dream was possible with or without four more years of school. Guys, I was shocked. And yes, I do realize how absurd all of this sounds now, but you must imagine that at that point, all of this was seriously news to me.

Eventually I landed a job at an international company doing customer service. I used all of my language skills and worked from 9-5 with the most diverse group of people I had met since leaving the international school I attended in middle school. Only they were perhaps a little more diverse because I was practically a child compared to my brand new colleagues. Life was good and it was oh-so-simple. Undeniably dull at times, but mostly uncomplicated. The company I worked for had a bonus system and my productivity rate was high due to the sheer amount of language lines they connected me to – I think at one point they even put me on the French line and you should trust me when I say my French is as elementary as they come. I began to find myself flirting with financial independence for the first time in my life. I began having acquisitive power. And in a way, a whole lot of freedom.

I was fully aware that for 8.5 hours a day I was enslaved to some whatever job at a company. And that my brain was starting to develop a lazy pattern of repetition from doing non-stimulating work. But came 5 in the afternoon and I was free. After years of high school, for once I had no homework. No need to take any work home with me. No need to do anything, really. Ever. And after hours of repetitive and dull work which involved among other things arguing with privileged consumers of luxury services who perceived the human being at the other end of the line to be a personification of the corporation they had gone ‘into business’ with, the very last thing I wanted to do was think. Or read. I was definitely physically free at 5pm. But thinking back on it now, I was mentally very much trapped.

I was trapped in a vicious cycle of selling my mental capacity of switching back and forth between languages or thinking on my feet, only to be fully mentally exhausted at the end of a working day. Slowly I started losing interest in the things that had always engaged me: world politics, the economy, quality cinema. I had money to consume, but I was buying things and short-term experiences, not ideas. I had no real mental stamina to consume ideas.

I knew after a few months on the job that my mother had been right about me (the first of many epiphanies that end with ‘my mom was right’…). I went back to school and began the long path that led me to graduate school now. It has been an up-and-down road. I didn’t actually stop working for a corporation until about two years ago. Emotionally and mentally taxing as it was to combine intellectual work at university with ‘proletarian mental work’ at my part-time job, studying Marxism while working for a multinational on the face of the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers in 2008 was quite a remarkable experience. I saw capitalist logic unfold in front of me. I was the instrument of the oppressor and yet I was part of the oppressed. I saw, for instance, how the focus on productivity began to weigh on our team morale. We were being driven to insanity to justify the very existence of our office in a European capital with its expensive workers. I witnessed first-hand how our email traffic was ‘outsourced’ to a more ‘productive’ part of the world and the consequences that this had for the part-time workers’ hours. I continue to profit from those experiences personally, socially and academically even today. I lived it all very intensely until I decided that I couldn’t really juggle that kind of high-stress job with a high-stress academic life. And so I quit.

Since I started truly prioritizing my studies, my ambitions have changed. As has my idea of what exactly constitutes freedom. I recently admitted to myself that I would very much like a job in academia in the future. And I largely feel that this means accepting that the physical freedom which I had in my 9 to 5 reality no longer exists. I will forever work seven days a week. If there were eight days in a week, I probably would work all eight also.

I will forever be my own ‘boss’ and be responsible for my own level of productivity. I will be able to decide to give myself the afternoon off, so long as I am willing to really kick it up a notch the following day or whenever else closer to one of the many deadlines running parallel to one another. And in a way that’s a concept that works for me. Because to me, being truly good in the Social Sciences, and being intellectually engaged inevitably means consuming and producing ideas but first and foremost being in touch with social life. Life outside of academia is what defines the course that academia will take. This dance, and trying to find the balance between them, is constant.

And yet this intellectual-freedom-while-not-ever-feeling-free thing is very fucking exhausting. Every now and then I find myself in a state of near-desperation. I crave a weekend of ‘whateverness’, or an afternoon of doing fuck-all fully guilt-free. Sometimes I console myself by thinking that I’m almost half-way through obtaining my master’s degree. Then an email comes in, from an esteemed professor, at 8pm on a Sunday or 3pm on a Saturday. And I am quickly reminded that this life that I want for the future isn’t too different from the one I have now. 

Before we get started, if you haven’t seen the Dove commercial everyone has decided to either love or feel very offended by, then please take a look at the following link: http://realbeautysketches.dove.com/

Let’s get two things perfectly fucking clear, guys: I liked the commercial and I’m not an oblivious idiot who thinks Dove is trying to change the world. The message is intended to sell Dove products. Dove’s beauty and care products, for that matter. Also, Dove is owned by Unilever. And Unilever is a massive corporation that owns a ridiculous amount of brands that make products consumed by everyone everywhere whether they like it, or are aware of it, or not (yikes). It’s also a corporation whose name is attached to not-so-women-friendly advertising. Like the OMO commercials that tell society women’s main concern in life should be washing their kid’s clothes to an eye-piercing shade of white, or that AXE men’s deodorant will make women wild or something (I never quite understood those, but the gist of it is that they are super-duper degrading to everyone involved. Does anyone remember the chocolate man? Gross on so many levels!). So yes. The ‘critics’ are absolutely right, Dove is probably an asshole. But guys, can we try a little social experiment ourselves? One whereby we remain skeptical, but are also able to celebrate the small victories?

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The world isn’t going to change in a day. Women of color, heavier women, shorter women, different-abled women, women who look more like the drawing on the left… None of these women are really the heroines of the storyboard for this commercial and that totally sucks. Like big time. I feel that way too. But how about the fact that the protagonists of this ad who actually manage to conform to beauty ideals to a great extent (skinny, white, whatever) still have such a critical view of themselves? Is that not remarkable? Is that not worth our time? Like fuck you, white blondie, you have it too good for us “real” women to relate? Or screw you young white heterosexual lady with a headless boyfriend in the next shot, you’re too straight to know how LGBTQ women feel? Is that not a little bit like… the opposite of what we want?

Our struggles are ALL different but it’s exactly this messy and beautiful kaleidoscope of issues and identities that makes the feminist cause an inclusive one! Hooray for diversity. Right? And that includes not shitting on other women for being somewhat closer to some norm! Because guess what we learned from this ad guys? We all share this awful rigidity with which we learned to look at ourselves as women because, guess fucking what? In our fucked up societies, we only get shown images of women who look a certain way! So I say that any tiny little divergence from that norm, however small, and however minute and manipulative even, is actually a little victory! A tiny, little, at times barely visible transgression, if you will.

And can I just say that in reality I am incredibly excited that so many people are on board with thinking critically about what the media is presenting us with? Like seriously, the very fact that we’re seeing people get together to criticize the oppressor as opposed to the oppressed is really very encouraging and maybe I shouldn’t even be complaining. And yet I am because even though I recognize the selective and opportunistic practices with which the message is being conveyed, it still sends out a solid message about how women can beat themselves up about their looks unnecessarily. Say what you want about the stranger’s gaze as a mode of self-validation, but I think at the end of the day our issues with self-confidence are much more about fears of not being accepted or seen for who we are beyond our looks than they are about us genuinely giving a shit about having imperfect skin or whatever.

Look, marketing and publicity are moral gray areas – usually perhaps a very dark gray leaning on immorality, sure. But that’s because morality is not the goal. Using cultural symbols and cues that consumers can read and understand (and this usually does mean stereotyping and the use of conventions about beauty and a strong reference to heteronormativity) to sell products is what marketing does. And I’m not defending that at all. But it’s the name of the game and so of course it will upset people when companies pretend that they are a moral force. Like as if Unilever gives two shits about women feeling that their crow’s feet are destroying their lives, so long as they buy Dove’s skillfully named “Pro-age” cream. But I prefer to look at this as a glass-half-full type situation.

We, women of the planet who are not models often do feel excluded from, and intimidated by, advertising. All that Dove is doing is nudging towards including us. Or some of us. Or someone who kind of looks more like they could sit down and have a coffee with us. Maybe even a piece of cake. And I say that’s a fucking fair enough strategy. We’re consumers and very profitable ones at that. So if Dove wants to engage us by sending positive as opposed to negative messages, is that not kind of an improvement on your average “you’re awful, but use this product and no one will know that you’re ugly/fat/smelly/have your period which is totally gross” that we get faced with from your run-of-the-mill advertising campaigns?

Ladies, when it comes to advertising I say we should count our blessings! Especially regarding personal care products. Because let’s face it: it’s not like Dove’s competitors aren’t using skinny, white and young women to sell their products too. So at least their message is kinder. (And although they are practically mutes, I did see at least one Black and one Asian woman in the commercial.)

Now for a little confessionality: I am probably not the vainest person in the world. Nor am I the most insecure. But I’m not going to sit here and say I’m not affected by looks because that would be a lie. Yes, I can (as in, am able to) feel beautiful at times. But the variables that must be perfectly aligned for me to feel beautiful really make up a complex equation. I have suffered from redness on my face since I was 15. The past week, my skin issue has left my face feeling quite sensitive. As I result, I decided to try something I barely ever do: live life without any make up for a while. Give the good ol’ face a rest for once. And I am ashamed to admit it, but closing the front door of my house without wanting to turn around to mask those patches of redness for the last three days has been an exercise of determination.

And no, that’s not the most important thing about me. And of course this doesn’t paralyze me from doing what I want in life because I of all people fucking well know that looks are not everything. I’m practically embarrassed to admit that they’re even anything.

Yet if for some reason I was asked to describe myself on the first day I walked among other humans without my usual foundation routine this week, like the women on the video did, I probably would have described something that looks a lot like the Loch Ness monster: i.e. an imaginary and hideous creature. So forgive me for defending an ad by a soulless corporation, but on this particular occasion I personally really responded to its message. And it made me feel like I should be a little less cynical when those close to me tell me I don’t need all the make-up because maybe, just maybe, it’s all in my head too.

And, let’s face it, how often can we say that an ad campaign for a cosmetics brand made us feel better about ourselves?

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Let me start by saying that, having been trained in sociology, I’m about as qualified to give an expert opinion on social anxiety as I am about string theory. That being said, dealing with quite a significant number of academic over-achievers on a regular basis has lead me to form quite the empirically-based hypothesis that social anxiety is super fucking common at university and otherwise fully functional social scientists can be as awkward as the caricature depictions of hyper intelligent physicists on TV. Odd right? You would think social scientists might need a few social skills to be able to analyze society. Well, you would be wrong.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: there have been times in life where I was not quite that into school. In my experience, for people who have grown up hearing that they’re very intelligent things can go one of two ways – or possibly a combination of both at different stages of life:

a) They feel compelled to put that good ol’ brain of theirs to work and get crazy ambitions at a ridiculously young age, finish high school like it’s the most serious task of their life, enter uni at barely-legal age, finish their undergrad just as they are allowed to have a drink in the United States, start grad school just as they are completing their second year of the second decade of their existence and when they do, all the pressure and the rushing have made them into over-achieving and high strung nervous wrecks who feel and act a little off to most people who have been out in the world – you know, with other humans (the correct pronunciation here is hoomans) and stuff.

b) Their initial learning curve is very high, but eventually somewhere in middle or high school they stop feeling challenged or thinking that school is particularly relevant given that their intelligence has been legitimated in other ways. Meanwhile, secretly, they’re afraid that if they try harder in chemistry class and their grades don’t improve as much as their history grades do when they push a little harder, people will find out they’re not quite as smart as they appear to be. Through these transgressions of underachieving, they start coming into contact with all sorts of people. They learn how to socialize and make small talk and even enjoy it, but struggle being equally successful in academia as they are at the bar. They seem to be taking a long time to mature compared to the people in scenario a and they feel guilty about it, but their joie de vivre makes up for the guilt. Meanwhile, slowly but surely they move through the motions of obtaining the same level of education as people in scenario a. Without ever feeling the confidence in what they’re doing that ‘normal’ people supposedly do, the extra time they took to figure shit out and the interactions they’ve had with life outside academia have made their social and general networking skills quite advanced. To the naked eye, these over-analyzing, overly sensitive, overly-critical, cynical and hyper articulated individuals are pretty fucking close to normal.

The two scenarios I sketched out here are what sociologist Max Weber would call ideal-types. They are essentially hypothetical models which serve as units of comparison. I’m not making a claim about them being true so much as I am claiming that these two serve as fine units of analysis for understanding socially awkward behavior at different degrees for the nerdy social scientists I know.

Until grad school, the divide between over achievers and the rest of us good students was not quite so blatant. What I am finding increasingly surprising as I get closer to professors in social sciences and academic advisers in social sciences and graduate students in, you know it, god-damned-social-fucking-sciences, is that a surprising number of these people struggle in social situations. If conversation analysis has taught me anything is that giving off creepy vibes and not picking up on social cues seems like the kind of thing we should be studying and not doing, but that doesn’t always quite seem to translate.

I personally feel that ‘real deal’ social anxiety is a pretty fucking heart-breaking affliction but I have always really struggled to understand how it happens. Self-doubt is my middle name. Questioning everything is what I do best. But it works for me. It makes my creative juices flow. Being critical of myself and afraid to come short pushes me to be pretty fucking sure of things I’m doing before I do them. You could say that I’m academically awkward. (Can I get a round of slow clapping for the awful terminology?) Or you know, modest. But then there’s the people who are fucking confident. They are sure that they are the bee’s knees and the voice of a new generation of social scientific intelligentsia and they get angry when their self-professed amazing ideas are not applauded and rewarded with high grades and praise. Yet their behavior at, for argument’s sake, a party can be quite the opposite. Insecurity overruns their ability to act and it’s pretty weird.

This type of thing really makes me question the way in which we organize formal education. Let me remind you that I am not qualified to make the analysis I’m proposing here in any sort of scientific way. Let me also clarify that is not a post about shyness. I, like most fucking people on the planet, have fits of shyness. We all like to pretend we don’t and that’s all “awh so cute” but taking a while to loosen up in certain social situations is the human fucking condition. Also, this is not about enjoying solitude or any other such introspective activities that most people in academia tend to love by definition. What I’m talking about is becoming pretty close to paralyzed in normal social interactions, seeming to lack emotional intelligence and at times even empathy for others.

Like seriously, can we just for a moment stop and question what the hell is up with pressuring young people to rush through the formative years of their lives in order to arrive at the other side with a beautiful magna cum laude degree in whatever the fuck and the social skills of a fucking door? Not to mention the amount of perfectly good students with perfectly awesome social skills who beat themselves up to the point of having burn outs and panic attacks in their fucking 20s just to keep up. Or the social acceptability of smoking and drinking coffee just to cope with the stress and sleep deprivation. On what planet is this desirable?

I gotta say, I am concerned for my generation. Mental health is important, you guys. We are way too stressed out and by the looks of things we’re all very conveniently ignoring it hoping it will go away. Unfortunately, that’s just not the case. With the economy the way it is, it’s probable that we will need the social skills to succeed in the job market and the coping skills to keep ourselves from drowning in fear and stress.

Isn’t it about fucking time that we start learning some of that at university as opposed to being pushed to exhaustion before we even really started our careers?

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“Torch Bra Fat”, “Best Butt Workout EVER”, and the god-awful “BUSTED!” which is basically an account of ways you can work out in spite of your injury. My email account sometimes seems to be out to get me. Seriously, Bra Fat? I had no idea what that was and now I find myself striking contortionist-like poses in front of the mirror to see it. So yes, this is a post about body image.

I don’t know how many people out there watch HBO’s Girls so I’m going to take a moment to explain the reference of the picture I used here. I’ve been following the show since episode one of the first season, and I would say it’s a really weird but quite relatable and idealized but also exaggerated portrait of the fucking shitty time that it is to be a twenty-something girl living in an expensive city that doesn’t appreciate or plans to compensate your liberal arts degree in any sort of financial way. It’s also about love and lust and self-loathing and generally I would say it’s also about what all of this does to our mental health and well-being. I like the show a lot, but nothing quite stuck with me as much as an argument between main “girl” Hannah and her troubled boyfriend Adam where he is criticizing her by saying “You think because you’re, what? 11 pounds overweight you know struggle?”, to which she says: “I am 13 pounds overweight and it has been awful for me my whole life!”.

Now, I do realize how to most people that is the fucking epitome of white people problems. And they/you are probably right. However, as a former Weight Watchers client who has either been dieting or self-loathing her entire life, this is some real as shit, yo.

I go through these phases every couple of months where I attempt to live by the laws of health and fitness. I go to my 90-minute sweaty yoga class 4 times a week and I eliminate all sugar from my house and I tell bread to go take a hike and I even manage to convince myself that I love a flat stomach more than I love beer. I sign up to newsletters like the Women’s Health one that calls me a fat loser every single time I open my Gmail, and I start following YouTube fitness channels that make me feel inadequate and I pin things on Pinterest about workouts to banish those “embarrassing flabby arms” of mine. And at first, this is all very motivating.

Soon enough though, when I am tired of living by Kate Moss’ infamous quote that “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” (ugh, right?) , I have managed to surround myself with a plethora of media that reaches out to me from every corner to tell me how much of a lazy and shitty a person I actually am for being chubby.

As a feminist and an educated person and a sociologist who really analyses the shit out of this society that imposes unrealistic ideals on women’s – but more recently everybody’s – bodies, I really struggle to understand how I could fall victim to these insecurities. It would seem that if one recognized the bully and studied its powerful tactics – like the type of tactic that makes 15-year-old girls believe cellulite is a serious affliction in order to sell some weird magical cream – then one should be immune to it all. But it doesn’t quite work like that, now does it?

Let me just be clear for a moment that this is not exactly only a “health” issue. I’m a vegetarian and I eat plenty of “superfoods” – whatever the fuck those are. I don’t eat fast-food and I’m not dangerously overweight or anything. I do exercise regularly. But to be honest I really could afford to lose a good 10 kg to fit back into my favorite pair of jeans. So we’re really talking about aesthetics and the kind of fluctuation in weight that sounds really high to most people but is totally mundane to people like me. Trust me, when you’ve been losing the same bullshit 10 to 15 kg since you first hit puberty, those numbers don’t quite sound so terrifying.

How I got to the point where I constantly put on and lose a toddler’s body weight every couple of years is a very complicated affair. Literature on obesity would point to changes in lifestyle and availability of foods that we as human beings still crave in a very instinctive way because they help you fatten-up when you don’t know where your next meal is coming from. Evolutionarily speaking, we still get the same signals to go for that greasy piece of whatever until we next manage to hunt for something. Only now hunting consists of opening up the fridge. Besides food security, other theories about obesity point to the physical environment in urban areas and the problematic of walkability in many cities. This, of course, does not apply to the city I live in, but it’s worth mentioning that it takes an entire ecosystem of obesity-promoting qualities to cause for so many people to be carrying extra weight. So much for the epidemiology lesson.

The bigger point to be made here is that I’m not bashing on fitness or even trying to look your best. Fuck knows I wish I had the dedication that it takes to be skinny when you have the deadly combination that is my height, my tendency to pick up weight, my seated existence at university, my healthy appetite and my love for wine and beer. What I do think is fucked up is how much different media play on these insecurities to get people like me to buy subscriptions to fitness workouts and magazines and body lotions and Spanx and diet pills and protein shakes and all sorts of products that only remind us that there is no fucking way that we’re good enough just the way we are.

When I went home for Christmas last year my cousin who is a nutritionist gave me serious shit about the quantities of gluten and fats I eat, what I drink and how this will affect my cholesterol given our unfortunate DNA. She gave me some really good tips on how to avoid overeating and what food combinations to make to get my metabolism moving. But what I really loved about her general advice was how she ended it: “Lau, don’t think of this as a diet. Diets are hard to follow and that frame of mind won’t work for you. Think of this as a change in your eating habits for life so you can be healthy and your body will follow”. Like, wow.

Being talked to about weight in a sensible manner: I like that shit.